More than 300 people jammed Sen. Bernie Sanders' town meeting at Montpelier High School on Sunday about how to save the U.S. Postal Service. Sanders said he will introduce legislation this week to address the Postal Service's financial woes without resorting to drastic cutbacks in service and massive layoffs.
He blamed the Postal Service's money troubles largely on accounting issues, including a law requiring it to set aside retiree health and retirement benefits far in advance.
Sanders criticized Postal Service management for not focusing on smarter ways to solve their financial problems. "Our goal must be to make the post office smarter and more competitive. We should not be engaged in a series of actions which could eventually lead to the destruction of the Postal Service," he said.
In an era of emails and the Internet, Sanders said barriers to modernization should be lifted to let the Postal Service compete with commercial rivals and set up new lines of business. "It is time for the Postal Service to move into the future, to offer Internet service, printing service, and all the other services appropriate for the modern age which are financially viable."
Vermonters who filled all of the seats and lined the hall outside the high school cafeteria said the post office is essential in rural communities. "Look at the people here today," said Bill Creamer of Bradford, Vt. who has worked for the post office for 24 years. "Senator, you take this back to Washington, Vermonters want their Postal Service."
Sanders called the town meeting in response to Postal Service proposals to end Saturday deliveries, lay off 120,000 employees, close almost 3,700 post offices, including 15 in Vermont, and close 300 mail processing centers, including two in Vermont.
"In the midst of this horrendous recession, the last thing this country needs is to lose another 100,000 workers," the senator said.